Motorcheck Used Car Guide: Mitsubishi Pajero

Years built: 2006 to 2018

Bodystyles: Large SUV

What is it?

It seems almost odd that the Mitsubishi Pajero is no longer in production. Originally introduced as a rival to the likes of the Toyota Land Cruiser and the Land Rover Defender in 1982, the Pajero remained in production until just last year. Finally, hobbled by falling sales, and given the fact that it had kept production of the 2006 model going for fully a dozen years, Mitsubishi pensioned it off. A replacement is likely, but it’s not coming imminently, and that’s a shame — although not free of flaws, the Pajero was always a likeable, rugged, big 4x4.

Which one should I buy?

Actually, if we’re honest, that 2006 model was really a major facelift and update of the Pajero that was introduced way back in 2000. So, if you’re looking for something with BMW X5-rivalling interior design and luxury, forget it — this is all about rugged capability, mixed with solid levels of day-to-day refinement and comfort.

In fact, that’s a recipe that the Pajero was instrumental in perfecting back in the eighties. Back then, way before Land Rover had ever thought of the Discovery, and when the Land Cruiser and Nissan Patrol were rather more utilitarian, the Pajero brought an enticing combination of on-road good manners, and serious mud-plugging capability. That’s a mix it retained right to the end, even if other makes and models eventually surpassed it.

There’s really only one engine option if you’re talking about the post-2006 cars and that’s a 3.2-litre direct injection four-cylinder diesel. That can develop as little as 160hp (!) but successive upgrades saw that climb to a much more respectable 190hp, with a useful 440Nm of torque. True, you’d get those sort of figures out of a more modern 2.0-litre engine, but those more contemporary units don’t have the lovely refinement of the Mitsubishi engine, which thrums away gently as you drive, somewhere off in the middle-distance.

Post-2010 models are the best — tweaks to the engine and the automatic gearbox meant that average fuel economy improved (to the heady heights of 30mpg!) and the Pajero’s equipment levels started to steadily increase, eventually including leather, climate control, a sunroof, and parking sensors.

Keep an eye out for the Executive model — introduced the exploit the (now closed) tax loophole that allowed five-seat versions of big 4x4s to be registered and taxed as a commercial vehicle. You won’t get the motor tax advantage if you’re using it as a private car, but you will benefit from a purchase price that was tens of thousands of Euro lower than that of the standard passenger model.

How much should I spend?

Pajeros were never a huge seller, what with that big, tax-unfriendly 3.2 engine, so you’ll have to shop around. You can find Executive models, on relatively recent plates, for less than €30,000 though, which is — as the saying goes — a lot of car for the money.

Here’s one we found:

2016 Mitsubishi Pajero Executive, one owner, 165,000km, €26,950 from a main dealer.

What goes wrong?

In theory, not much. While Mitsubishi as a brand has had its ups and downs when it comes to reliability, the Pajero has usually been the brand’s gold standard for solidity.

That said, there are a few things to watch. That 3.2-litre engine might be from the old school, but it does need regular servicing, and attention paid to the simple stuff like oil changes and new filters on a regular basis. Do that and it should last for hundreds of thousands of kilometres. Power steering pumps can leak (but very rarely fail), while driveshafts can be vulnerable if a previous owner has been a bit too enthusiastic with the car’s go-anywhere capability. Equally, the switchable four-wheel drive system needs a bit of regular exercise — go somewhere quiet and give it a few minutes running in both high and low ratios, or the systems’ sensors can pack up for lack of use.

Keep an eye out for rust, too, especially under the body and around the tailgate.

Anything else?

The Pajero is one of those cars that you should buy only if you really need it. It’s a hard-working car, so give it hard working jobs — crossing rutted fields or rocky mountain roads, or just towing hefty loads to and fro. That said, it does the comfort thing very well too. The design might be aged, but it’s superbly relaxing on a long motorway run, and hugely roomy inside for family duties.

And when you’ve found your perfect Mitsubishi Pajero don’t forget to get it history checked by